March 8, 2018
The 2018 Minnesota Legislative Session is in full swing at the Capitol. Two weeks into a short, 10-week session and the priority issue areas are starting to take shape.
With news that Minnesota has a projected $329 million budget surplus, possible new spending is again on the table. Governor Mark Dayton plans to submit a supplemental budget proposal to the legislature in the coming weeks and lawmakers may begin to examine any small budget proposals that did not make the cut last year.
Both the House and Senate energy committees have started meeting regularly, holding hearings on some of this year’s top issue areas. The first deadline we are focused on is March 22, in which bills introduced in either the House or Senate must receive a hearing in their house of origin in order to continue through the legislative process.
Opportunities to advance energy storage innovation enjoy more bipartisan support than some other areas of clean energy. CEEM is working with partner organizations and stakeholders to introduce legislation that will assess the economic and market opportunities of energy storage in Minnesota similar to the State of Charge Report in Massachusetts. This proposed legislation will also include incentives to support the development of energy storage pilot projects. As Frank Jossi reported in a recent Midwest Energy News story, “Energy storage bridges the partisan divide.”
Homeowners who make the switch to high-efficiency biomass heating appliances could be getting a tax credit – if a bill introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives is passed this legislative session.
CEEM is working with several biomass appliance manufacturers in Minnesota to introduce a tax credit for Minnesotans who purchase high-efficiency biomass boilers and furnaces. Not only are biomass heating systems up to 85 percent efficient, more Minnesotans purchasing them would also stimulate rural economic development, create jobs, and enable energy savings.
The bill received its first hearing this session on March 6 in the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee. The bill, chief authored by Rep. Deb Kiel, is headed to the House Tax Committee next. (The bill received a hearing last year in the Minnesota Senate where it was laid over but ultimately not included in the final Omnibus Tax Bill. The chief author of the bill in the Senate is Sen. Mark Johnson.)
ENERGY JOBS & INNOVATION TASKFORCE:
CEEM is committed to expanding Minnesota’s 57,000-strong clean energy workforce. To that end, we are leading the development of an Energy Jobs & Innovation Task Force that would meet outside of legislative session to examine and recommend legislative initiatives to grow energy efficiency and clean energy jobs in Minnesota. This task force would be made up of industry groups, utilities, higher education and labor organizations to examine national policies and approaches to determine what we can do in Minnesota to further prepare and grow our clean energy workforce.
CEEM is supporting work to reinstate a functional Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (R-PACE) program in Minnesota that would include strong consumer protections. A recent report shows a healthy market for Residential PACE nationwide and Minnesota could be the fourth state to utilize this financing tool to spur economic development. Already R-PACE has helped create 35,000 jobs and infused over $400 million in private capital into local economies.
A bill modifying Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards program received a hearing on March 6 in the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee. The bill raises the total nameplate capacity of solar energy systems eligible to receive the production incentive from 20 kilowatts to 40 kilowatts direct current or less. The bill was amended in committee so that, beginning in 2019, any unspent amount from the solar production incentive program that remains at the end of an allocation year must be returned to the Renewable Development Account.
CEEM will continue its efforts to ensure full funding allocations for the incentive program remain intact as the bill travels to the Senate floor. We will also work to ensure the Solar*Rewards program is working efficiently for everyone in the industry.